Photographing the secret life of birds


South Africa is home to over 900 species of birds, of which just under 100 are endemic to the country. The vast array of climate zones, vegetation and biomes create different habitats to accommodate these varieties. But as urbanisation and agricultural practices threaten and disrupt birdlife, many people don’t have the chance to witness their existence or beauty. John Rodger is changing that paradigm with his camera.

The photographer recently travelled to the Northern Cape, where the birds caught his attention. “It’s a place that is dry and barren but you’d be surprised at the diversity of birdlife,” Rodger says. He decided to document the array of species that he encountered. Formerly an engineer, he gave up his day job to pursue photography. “I felt that I wasn’t doing something I was passionate about, so I decided to take up photography,” he says. His love for the outdoors is visible in the content of his work. Rodgers also leads amateur and professional photographers on tours to discover and explore new spots in the Western Cape, where he is based. Even though wildlife photography was never his focus, his interest in capturing birdlife has enriched his new profession. “Through this project, I was able to learn more about these birds and share that knowledge with others,” he says.

Rodgers encourages all South Africans to discover the natural wonders of the country, and in doing so, learn about and protect it. “You can’t appreciate something if you don’t know it’s there,” he says. “Photography allows me to capture what others may not see, and preserve what I encounter.” While not everyone may notice the surrounding natural life, it’s photographers like Rodgers who create a lasting memento of what we have and need to preserve.